Sad news went around the world yesterday announcing the death of Sir Nicholas Winton, MBE, at the well-deserved age of 106 (19 May 1909 – 1 July 2015). Winton was referred to also as the British ‘Schindler’, as he saved the lives of some 669 Czechoslovak children, in a true act of selfless bravery as World War II was breaking out.
Sir Winton’s acts went unnoticed for many years until in 1988 the humble Nicholas’s wife Grete found a scrapbook documenting the events. From then on, he was bestowed with many awards for his acts, having arranged safe passage for the children, smuggling them across Europe to join prearranged families in the UK.
The scrapbook contained lists of the children, including their parents’ names and the names and addresses of the families that took them in, leading to 80 of them being found in the UK alone. You can find a sculpture of him and two children at Prague central train station, and find him sitting reading at Maidenhead train station in England, among others. Various documentaries and films have also been made about his long and happy life, from which everyone should take inspiration.
Czech president, Miloš Zeman, summed it up in 2014 when awarding Sir Winton with the Order of the White Lion, when he wrote: “You gave these children the greatest possible gift: the chance to live and be free. You did not think of yourself as a hero but you were conducted by a desire to help those who could not defend themselves, those who were vulnerable. Your life is an example of humanity, selflessness, personal courage and modesty.”